SAN JOSE -- Police Chief Chris Moore, beset by budget troubles that forced him to lay off officers for the first time in the department's history, stunned his rank and file and many city officials Monday by announcing his retirement after less than two years on the job.
"This is my decision -- I was not forced into it by any means," Moore, 51, said at a hastily announced news conference at police headquarters.
But he also noted there was "no secret that there have been a number of challenges" during his tenure.
Department insiders said the decision, which Moore told reporters he made in early August, was sealed after a City Council vote Aug. 7 not to proceed with a city tax measure on the November ballot.
After watching his department endure 10 percent pay cuts, 65 layoffs in the summer of 2011, and a bitter battle over pension reform, the tax measure could have helped solve the department's budget woes.
When that decision went down in a 5-5 vote, insiders said, Moore had had enough.
Moore could not be reached for comment on the matter late Monday.
Moore will leave the top spot after 30 years as a cop, 27 of them in San Jose. The chief -- who in 2011 earned a $199,000 annual salary -- will depart with almost 80 percent of his pay, or $155,000 annually. That does not count the $200,000 he has accrued in sick pay.
Mayor Chuck Reed, who expressed disappointment with the chief's decision, said Moore would
"I thought he would stay longer, I was hoping he would stay longer, but times have been difficult," said Reed.
But Jim Unland, president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association, whose members are suing the city over the pension reform ballot measure, said "there was nothing for Moore to stay for" anymore.
Retired San Jose Sgt. Noe Longoria, who stayed on as a reservist until October of last year, said he worked with Moore when he was a rookie in the department.
"He was pretty exceptional, very sharp," Longoria said. "When I saw him rise through the ranks, it didn't surprise me."
However, Longoria added that he believes Moore "walked into a bad situation" when he was appointed.
"Before that, there was talk that the department could downsize," he said. "The mayor was telling the troops in the POA that benefits needed to be reduced as well as pay, so morale started dropping. Consequently when Chris took over morale was already on the way to its lowest levels."
In particular, Moore was forced to grapple with Measure B, passed overwhelmingly by voters in June, which would limit retirement benefits for future hires and require them to pay half the cost of a pension. Current employees would keep the pensions already earned but have to choose either a more modest and affordable plan for their remaining years on the job or pay up to 16 percent more of their salary to continue with the existing benefit. Retirees could see their 3 percent yearly pension raises suspended up to five years if the city declares a fiscal crisis.
While recruiting new officers has not been difficult, Moore said Monday, trying to retain veteran officers has been frustrating.
Moore's announcement comes after a summer spike in violent crime as well as rising burglary rates that the shrinking department cannot respond to.
"There's never a good time, but today is the right time," Moore said of his decision. "I've got a daughter in high school. I'm going to take a break."
Moore said 80- to 90-hour work weeks, which he knew came with the job, have been brutal, but that the position has been rewarding all the same.
In particular, he cited time spent getting to know the community and "beefing up" relationships that had suffered with some of the city's minority communities after allegations the police department practiced racial profiling.
City Manager Debra Figone, to whom Moore reported, was teary-eyed at the meeting.
"This is a bittersweet moment for me," she said. "Serving as a chief is one of the toughest jobs, and he has served it just as admirably as I could expect."
Figone said the city is launching a nationwide search for a replacement.
But, she said, if the process isn't finalized by the end of January, the city will not rush into that decision.
Staff writer Eric Kurhi contributed to this story. Contact Tracy Seipel at 408-275-0140.
Birthplace: San Francisco
Education: Bachelor's degree, UC Berkeley; master's degree in public administration, San Jose State; J.D., Lincoln Law School
Employment: UC Berkeley campus police for three years; joined the San Jose Police Department in 1985
Favorite sport: Basketball
Favorite music: Smooth jazz, classic rock
Favorite author: Thomas Friedman
Motto: "Chance favors the prepared mind." -- Louis Pasteur